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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Learn about free and open resources available.

Pros and Cons of OER

When considering whether to adopt an OER strategy for your course, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of using OER to see whether it is the best fit for you and your students. Below are a some pros and cons to consider.


Cost - Cost is often the driving force behind adopting an OER strategy -- Open Educational Resources are free! Students do not have to purchase a book for the course, and the only costs that students may incur include paper and ink costs if they wish to print the materials.

Access to Material - Materials are often accessible on a variety devices and can usually be accessed from any location in the world. Plus, students can start using the course content immediately from day one.

Cafeteria Style Options - You aren't limited to one resource when incorporating OERs. You can pull from a variety of resources, books, handouts, and material. This can also be thought of as a "modular" approach to building a course. Simply take the pieces you need and put it all together to create a complete course.

Enhancement of Regular Course Content - If you don't feel like you want to dive into the deep end of Open Education Resources, you can consider using supplemental materials to enhance your current course. With this strategy, you can "test the waters" and continue to add materials as you see fit.

Rapid Dissemination of Materials - Often by the time a new book makes its way into the classroom, material can be months (sometimes years) old. OERs give you the ability to access information that is timely and relevant. OERs are always changing, improving and being updated. Using OERs give you access to a community of people and resources which allows you to adapt and change quickly as new materials become available.


Quality - All Open Educational Resources are not created equally. Because these materials come from a variety of sources, you may have to spend time thoroughly reviewing items to ensure quality.

Technological Issues & Accessibility - Some students may have issues accessing OERs. If something you choose requires special software students may not have the proper setup to access these items.

Also, you will have to ensure that all items are ADA compliant. Most schools require material presented to students to be accessible. You will have to check that any materials you use for your course meet your school's ADA requirements.

For a checklist of HTML and Plugin Requirements check out WebAIM's WCAG 2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) Checklist.

Copyright/Intellectual Property Concerns - Content that is used must not violate copyright laws. Since Open Educational Resources are meant to be used openly, the fair use exemption may not apply. You must be careful about the resources you use and share and be aware that even though it may be labeled "OER" it may contain copyrighted material, and using it could put you in danger of violating the copyright of the original work.

Please be sure to review the Creative Common Licenses for more information about how information is categorized and shared via Creative Commons, and refer to our Fair Use Guide for more information about making Fair Use assessments. 

Sustainability - Links to OERs may change or disappear from semester to semester or even within the same semester. Links must be checked regularly. Also, OERs can become outdated, and you must check the content often to make sure it is up-to-date and accurate.

If you are using many references, and you don't want to have to check all of the links manually, you may want to consider using a link checker application to streamline the process. The W3C offers a link checker for websites that are publicly accessible.

Not a Book - A good old fashioned textbook does provide uniformity of voice. With OER, you and your students must adapt to a variety of voices and writing styles. Content may also be in a variety of formats including pdfs, videos, websites, and audio files.